Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten stated in a recent letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament that efforts to improve the justice sector on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in recent years have had positive effects. However, cooperation between the justice partners remains essential, also because of the islands’ small scale. “I conclude that much work has been done and that the phased implementation of measures has resulted in an improvement of the justice facilities.” The current situation is much better than it was when Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became Dutch public entities in October 2010, he added.
At the same time, the minister noted there are issues that require constant attention and active input. He specifically mentioned the importance of cooperation between the different partners in the justice system. He stated that generally a system can only be strong and effective through solid cooperation, and that this was even more important due to the small scale and the socioeconomic context of the islands. “I consider the link between the activities of the different organisations within the Caribbean Netherlands, as well as between the Caribbean Netherlands and the European part of the Netherlands of essential importance to keep improving the justice facilities from an integral approach,” he stated.
In his eight-page letter, Opstelten provided a comprehensive overview of the measures that had been taken in the various justice policy areas, including the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN, law enforcement and crime prevention, the legal system, penitentiary system, youth, rehabilitation, victims, the Fire Departments, immigration, and disaster management.
Regarding the police, Opstelten stated that “great strides have been made forward.” The general police and the detectives’ capacity has been strengthened. In 2013 seven full-time aspirant officers joined and 17 fulltime employees have been trained to become all-round police staff members. Another 17 full-time allround staff members have completed their MBO 4 education in 2014, followed by another 16 in 2015. “This has resulted in a considerable improvement of quality,” stated Opstelten who announced that later this year, nine fulltime aspirant employees will be recruited for the KPCN.
The deployment of the Royal Dutch Marechaussees on St. Eustatius and Saba with eight full time employees has been extended to late 2015, while the cooperation in Bonaire soon will also be prolonged by two years. Together with the Marechausseesand the KPCN, an adequate immigration system has been set up on the islands, which complies with international requirements and norms. A subsequent step is the intensification of the cooperation with the immigration services of other countries in the Kingdom. Cooperation already exists with Curaçao and St. Maarten, while Aruba has been asked to join.
The KPCN, Customs, the Justice Facility Department DJI and the Marechaussees have been working on a more flexible deployment of personnel especially on St. Eustatius and Saba. The minister called a flexible way of working especially important due to the small scale and the geographical setting. This way, the existing capacity can be utilised in an optimal way and it also prevents flying in additional personnel from elsewhere at a high cost and with a considerable delay.
The new police station in Kralendijk will be opened later this year, many of the police vehicles will be replaced in 2014. New prison facilities are being constructed on Bonaire for 107 persons and on St. Eustatius for 18 persons. Both facilities are expected to open in 2016.
The Commission on the Prevention of Torture CPT of the Council of Europe visited the penitentiary facilities in the Caribbean Netherlands in May this year. The first verbal feedback on this visit has been generally positive, stated Opstelten. The final report of the CPT should be ready late 2014.
The minister announced that the Council for Law Enforcement (Raad voor de Rechtshandhaving) in 2014 will investigate the process of filing police reports, the management of confiscated goods, the use of police brutality, the execution of penal court sentences, the security of government authorities, the infrastructure to combat corruption, the cooperation in combating border-transgressing crime, border control of persons, police cells and the education of police.